Monday, October 29, 2007

Two Person Crew Widens a Remote Section of the Banadad

A two-person crew lead by Jim Raml spent four days widening a remote interior section of the Banadad west-end. In order to get to the site the crew was driven in by truck along the Moose Trail to the Croft Yurt. From the Yurt the crew hiked in two More mile where they set-up camp. They then worked out of their camp. According to Raml the trail was wet, there were a few large trees down along the way and they experience one cold morning when their water hole froze over. The net result of the crews efforts was a mile of the Banadad near the middle of the west end of the trail was widened.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Snow on the Trail; Work Crews on the Banadad

"Gunflinters" woke-up this morning to a bit of snow on the ground. Not much; less then a quarter of an inch. But after all it is near the end of October and snow is expect. However for you skiers it still is to early but work has begun getting the trails ready for you.

Earlier this month a crew from Adventure Vacations, a Twin Cities based adventure travel company widened a three-quarter mile section on the eastern end of the Banadad Ski Trail. The group found a larger number then normal of down trees, which they removed. The down trees were a result of a combination of the heavy rains and winds of the pasts two months.

Then today a two-person local crew is going out to widen a remote section of the trail beginning two miles west of the Croft Yurt. This crew will be camping on the trail for five days and plan to widen about mile.

More Volunteer crews are expected out on the Banadad during November. Normally by mid-December the entire Banadad is cleared and ready for skiers. Prior to that and given a little help with mother nature providing snow, skiers have been able to start skiing on the eastern end of the Banadad as early as Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Save the Planet: Vote Smart"

Boundary Country Trekking in their "Statement of Sustainability" describes their business' commitment to their community and the environment. However, when it come to an individual's or, for that matter, a company's real impact and responsibility for addressing the problems created by global warming Thomas Friedman Op-Ed article in the New York Time of October 21, 2007, to me, was "right on." Freedman wrote:

People often ask: I want to get greener, what should I do? New light bulbs? A hybrid? A solar roof? Well, all of those things are helpful. But actually, the greenest thing you can do is this: Choose the right leaders. It is so much more important to change your leaders than change your light bulbs.

Why? Because leaders write the rules, set the standards and offer the tax incentives that drive market behavior across a whole city, state or country. Whatever any of us does individually matters a tiny bit. But when leaders change the rules, you get scale change across the whole marketplace. And the energy-climate challenge we face today is a huge scale problem. Without scale, all you have is a green hobby.

Have no illusions, everything George Bush wouldn’t do on energy after 9/11 — his resisting improved mileage for cars and actually trying to weaken air-conditioner standards — swamped any good works you did. Fortunately, the vacuum in the White House is being filled by leaders from below.

Take the New York City taxi story. Two years ago, David Yassky, a City Council member, sat down with one of his backers, Jack Hidary, a technology entrepreneur, to brainstorm about how to make New York City greener — at scale. For starters, they checked with the Taxi and Limousine Commission to see what it would take to replace the old gas-guzzling Crown Victoria yellow cabs, which get around 10 miles a gallon, with better-mileage, low-emission hybrids. Great idea, only it turned out to be illegal, thanks to some old size regulations designed to favor Crown Vics.

Recalled Mr. Hidary: “When they first told me, I said, ‘Are you serious? Illegal?’” So he formed a nonprofit called to help Mr. Yassky lobby the City Council to change the laws to permit hybrid taxis. They also reframed it as a health issue, with the help of Louise Vetter, president of the American Lung Association of the City of New York.

“New York City has among the dirtiest air in the U.S.,” Ms. Vetter said. “When it comes to ozone and particulate matter, New Yorkers are breathing very unhealthy air. Most of it is tailpipe emissions. And in New York City, where asthma rates are among the highest in the nation, the high ozone levels create very serious threats, especially for kids who spend a lot of time outdoors. Converting cabs from yellow to green would be a great gift to the city’s children.”

Matt Daus, who heads the taxi commission, which is independent of the mayor, was initially reluctant, but once he learned of the health and other benefits, he joined forces with Messrs. Yassky and Hidary, and the measure passed the City Council by 50 to 0 on June 30, 2005. Since then, more than 500 taxi drivers have converted to hybrids — mostly Ford Escapes, but also Toyota Highlanders and Priuses, and others.

On May 22, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the greenest mayors in America, decided to push even further, insisting on a new rule, which the taxi commission has to approve, that will not just permit but require all cabs — 13,000 in all — to be hybrids or other low-emission vehicles that get at least 30 miles a gallon, within five years.

“When it comes to health and safety and environmental issues, government should be setting standards,” the mayor said. “What you need are leaders who are willing to push for standards that are in society’s long-term interest.” When the citizens see the progress, Mr. Bloomberg added, “then they start to lead.” And this encourages leaders to seek even higher standards.

I asked Evgeny Freidman, a top New York City fleet operator, how he liked the hybrids: “Absolutely fabulous! We started out with 18, and now we have over 200, mostly Ford Escapes. Now we only put hybrids out there. The drivers are demanding them and the public is demanding them. It has been great economically. With gas prices as they are, the drivers are saving $30 dollars a shift.” He said drivers who were getting 7 to 10 miles a gallon from their Crown Vics were getting 25 to 30 from their hybrids. The cost of shifting to these hybrids, he added, has not been onerous.

Now Mr. Hidary is trying to get law firms and investment banks, which use gas-guzzling Town Cars — 12,000 in the city — to demand hybrid sedans only.

This is how scale change happens. When the Big Apple becomes the Green Apple, and 40 million tourists come through every year and take at least one hybrid cab ride, they’ll go back home and ask their leaders, “Why don’t we have hybrid cabs?”

So if you want to be a green college kid or a green adult, don’t fool yourself: You can change lights. You can change cars. But if you don’t change leaders, your actions are nothing more than an expression of, as Dick Cheney would say, “personal virtue.”

Monday, October 15, 2007

Minnesota Tourism is Going Green

The Explore Minnesota Tourism (EMT), the state's official tourism agency, is developing an environmentally friendly tourism program. A task force composed of representatives from both private and public tourism and environmental organizations are putting together "guidelines" for the state's tourism industry. It is expected that these guidelines will be voluntary, however, EMT will promote businesses that comply with these guidelines as environmentally friendly.

The action by EMT is a result of legislation enacted by last year's State Legislature. John Edman's EMT Director is committed to positioning the state's tourism industry as a leader in the nation as an environmentally friendly tourism State. It is expected that the Task Force's work will be completed by the end of this year and EMT will then proceed with implementing an environmentally friendly travel program.

The Task Force consist of Randy Gutzmann; Ted Young, Gunflint Trail Association; Hank Todd, Carlson Company; Peter Hark, Minnesota DNR; Kate Fernholz; Dave Siegel, Hospitality Minnesota; Kevin Matzek, Hospitality Minnesota; Representative Kate Knuth, Minnesota House of Representatives; Maureen Scallen, Pam Thorsen Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association; Bill Droessler; Tony Kwilas, Minnesota Chamber; Tom Ossell, Orion Resort Sales; Jan Joannides, Renewing the Countryside; Senator Mary Olson, Minnesota State Senate; Senator Satveer Chaudhary, Minnesota State Senate; Shannon Mann, Sugar Lake Lodge; Dorothy Anderson, Ph.D.University of Minnesota; Ingrid Schneider, University of Minnesota . Judy Plante, State of Minnesota is serving as the Task Forces moderater. Colleen Tollefson and John Edmans representatives EMT on the Task Force.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Rain Put Fall Burns on Hold

With seemingly non-stop rain since September, Dennis Neitzke, District Ranger announced at a recent meeting of Canoe Outfitters that due to the weather it was unlikely that the District would be able to conduct any prescribed burns this fall. In order to burn at least ten days would be required to dry out the forest enough to be able to burn and the window when it could be burned would soon be ending. This fall's plans included burning the southern end of the Caribou Rock Trail, the eastern and western ends of the Banadad Ski Trail and several sites east of the Lima Grade.

Maybe "mother nature" is telling us that we have had enough fire this year!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

USFS's Outdated Wilderness Management

According to the USFS no actions can be taken within the Boundary Waters (BWCAW) for environmental reasons. We are also told that campsite restoration including water bars and adding vegetation to protect Boundary Water's campsite from erosion and/or undesired expansion is allowed. Now a new program within the Boundary Waters has come to our attention- forest service personnel in cooperation with the Friends of the Boundary Waters are identifying and removing exotic evasive plants.

Is not Campsite restoration and controlling exotics within the wilderness being done for environmental reasons? Or am I missing something?

Now please do not get me wrong I clearly support these actions but I am raising this question to point out the hypocrisy of forest service policy which state nothing can be done in the wilderness for environmental reason. Would not a much sounder approach to wilderness management be to throw-out this outdated policy and replace it with a policy that take into account the health of the forest. In other words- wilderness management which allows actions for necessary environmental reasons

Within the Boundary Waters, from the 1890 through 1978 most of the long lived red and white pines were cut thus eliminating most of nature seed source of these species. Then of course there was the Cavity Lake fire that was so hot that most of the jack pine seed source within that area was burned. Whether seed sources are removed by past logging or fires, the only way these native species are going to be returned to the wilderness in any significant numbers is for the Forest Service to change its outdated wilderness management police and allow re- planting or re-seeding were nature seed sources are not available.

Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Hardwood Ecology and the leading authority on the natural history of Minnesota's boreal forests, stated in a speech at Vermilion Collage in Ely that "What's more of a wilderness, to have an exotic species like buckthorn take over for the native species, or to go in there and start fires and regenerate species that belong there?" Frelich went on to state that, "the Forest Service also needs to look at reseeding and planting species such as white pine in areas where they are not regenerating naturally.

Further, the USFS's prescribed burns in the Boundary Waters, we are told, are to protect residences living outside the wilderness. That is fine but perhaps there is another reason why some prescribed burns need to take place. If fire is needed for the health of a forest and the Forest Service is going to suppress wildfires that threaten residential areas, how is the health of the forest adjacent to residential area going to be accomplished? The only tool the Forest Service has to answer this question within the wilderness and near residential areas is by prescribed burns.

by Ted Young

Monday, October 01, 2007

September Rainfall Hit Ten Year High

The rainfall came and came and came during September. The total for this September, recorded for Poplar Lake, was 16 1/2 inches far exceeding the past ten year monthly average of three inches. The previous highest September rain was in 1998 when 5.2 inches was recorded.

September 6-7 during a twelve hour period 9.9 inches of rain was received. Following this rain the Lima Grade near the Gunflint Trail had three foot deep gullies cause by rain run-off and at the North Brule the river over-flowed its banks flooding the road. Wash out road became impassable. Since then the roads have been repaired

Lakes in the mid-trail area are now at their highest level in years.